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Question 179

Q: My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are highly narcissistic.

My husband and I have struggled to love them while also making them accountable and not condoning their actions. This has been difficult on our marriage, and I recognize that we both need help forgiving them. I sympathize with them to some degree since I was a victim of verbal abuse within my family and sometimes exhibit some of the same narcissistic characteristics. I’m seeking a Christian perspective on this topic. I’d appreciate any information you could provide. 

Asked by: Kelli

A: Kelli, I want you to know that I found your question very, very interesting. It’s intriguing because it deals with human nature.

First of all, let me simply say that narcissistic people basically want answers to only two questions. Number one, how does this make me look? And, how does this make me feel? They’re very self-centered, very self-focused, self-absorbed—everything has to do with them. So narcissistic people are very difficult to live with. I can understand that your mother-in-law and sister-in-law want to control your marriage, which narcissistic people want to do, because remember, they always have to be the center of the attention, and control is one of their means to get it.

I’m glad that you and your husband have set down some boundaries and I hope that you stick to those, because in-laws can destroy good marriages.

Secondly, I’m interested in the fact that you yourself admit to narcissism. That’s a tremendous step forward. Most narcissistic people are so defensive that if you point out their narcissism, they’ve got a hundred reasons why they don’t have a problem but other people do. So, I hope that you make progress by beginning to be less self-defensive, more willing to admit that you’re wrong, to confess what you see in your heart, and to give your husband the privilege of helping you along. And by the way, he may struggle with his problems too, so both of you need to help each other. I’m optimistic that you’re making progress, Kelli. Thanks for your question, and God bless you.

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